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Here's what you need to know about chaplains

Army chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.


Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin presents a quilt to Spc. Zowie Sprague during a battlefield circulation visit in Taji, Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. The quilt was hand-made by a family from a small town in Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cesar E. Leon)

The Army's Chaplain Corps provides counseling for soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief, or psychological trauma. Army chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted soldier known as a chaplain assistant.

Together, they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team.

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"Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care," said Army Maj. James S. Kim, the chaplain for the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

"Caregiver" is a term that can be given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.

"I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with," Kim said. "At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling."

Compassion Fatigue

Army Chaplain. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF)

UMT's are empathetic to soldiers' personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue.

UMT's need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their soldiers.

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"It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can't do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith," said Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, the chaplain assistant for the 1st Sustainment Command UMT.

The Army Chaplain Corps provides responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support provided can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression.

Chaplains have been an integral part of the armed forces since 1775, when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army.

Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations.

They also provide soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and provide counseling and moral support for soldiers in need.